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Nurses’ leader helps secure gear for frontline HSE workers



One of the shipments of protective masks which arrived this week.

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to healthcare professionals grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic has been the subject of much scrutiny, but efforts to address that shortage have drawn a huge amount of public support.

Galway woman and long-time advocate for healthcare workers, Mary Leahy, has been leading a crusade to ensure that nobody is left without the protection they need to carry out life-saving work – and through her founding of Heroes-Aid with a number of colleagues, has managed to raise just shy of €130,000 online in the space of just two weeks.

A bumper donation from MMA star Conor McGregor of €1 million secured by Ms Leahy a fortnight ago – and previously reported by the Galway City Tribune – has already seen PPE such as face masks, visors and gowns delivered to hospitals across the country – but the shortage goes on, and so too does the need for further donations, Ms Leahy said.

“This is a global pandemic and we’re in a global market which makes it difficult. It’s a seller’s market,” she added.

While McGregor’s donation was a huge boost – and any other millionaire wishing to make a donation will be gratefully received – every small donation counts, said Ms Leahy, who is no stranger to the frontline herself as a nurse, public health nurse and National Coordinator for Nurse/Midwife Safety.

“I actually get emotional every time I see someone donate €5, because that’s probably someone that can’t really afford it and yet, it buys two masks,” the former city councillor told the Galway City Tribune this week.

And those two masks could make all the difference as it could mean removing ‘moral distress’ for a healthcare worker.

“No nurse or doctor is being asked to care for a patient without PPE. But nurses and doctors have altruism in them – if a patient needs help, they want to run forward and give it.

“If we manage to provide one mask and that translates to a nurse or doctor being able to go to that patient, then it’s worth it,” said Ms Leahy.

It’s not the wish or intention of Heroes-Aid to replace the HSE in the procurement of PPE – they have a statutory role and are also working hard to deliver the necessary equipment, she added.

Heroes-Aid’s role, as Ms Leahy sees it, is to provide emergency support to hospitals that are on the brink of running out of PPE – and last weekend, with the assistance of the army, delivered vital equipment to seven hospitals spanning an 800km, including Naas, St James’, Limerick and Portiuncula.

There was a lot of criticism recently of PPE delivered from China that wasn’t of the required standard, and Ms Leahy said it was shameful that suppliers had sent that to the HSE, given the requirement and the money spent by the HSE to procure it.

Standards have been upped since, but Ms Leahy said there was a capability and a willingness by many companies in Ireland – including Boston Scientific in Ballybrit – to produce PPE. But sourcing component parts can be difficult.

“I’m on to Boston Scientific helping and giving guidance, and they’re able to run off prototypes in 24 hours, and I give them the link to get it out to staff in the hospitals to try it out and offer suggestions back. Boston Scientific is willing to make masks, but they need the ‘P3’ filters.

“We can make PPE in Galway; we can produce our own masks,” said Ms Leahy, but supports needed to be put in place by Government to assist businesses wishing to do so. “There is a massive ability and willingness to innovate but there is no obvious help available.”

Ms Leahy said she has a link to producers that was secure and trustworthy, and that meant she could secure PPE without having to wade through as much red tape as the HSE sometimes had to.

Her primary concern is the welfare of staff, and ensuring that they are kept safe and able to perform their job without feeling unduly stressed – and there is plenty to be stressed about, she said.

From exposure to the virus, adapting home lives and dealing with the conditions of working in PPE for 13-hour shifts, to rapidly upskilling and being redeployed to new and challenging working environments, healthcare workers are facing huge challenges every day.

A WhatsApp support group has been established by Ms Leahy for workers to share their experiences, and through Heroes-Aid, access to out-of-hours psychologists is also available.

“In the long-term, we want to extend that support to the families of healthcare workers who might be negatively affected by Covid-19.

“Staff are emotionally distressed – they are educated to give a certain standard of care and if they can’t do that, it’s upsetting. Staff are upset at hearing of patients passing away in nursing homes. It is a very distressing time for healthcare workers,” said Ms Leahy.

For more information or to make a donation, visit Heroes-Aid.


Matriarch of Scotty’s Diner donates kidney to her son!



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A well-known family in the Galway restaurant trade have swapped chef whites for hospital gowns after the matriarch donated a kidney to her son.

Jenny and Andrew Ishmael, synonymous with Scotty’s Diner in Cúirt na Coiribe on the Headford Road in Terryland, are recovering in Beaumont Hospital after the marathon live donor operation.

It took place last Monday and staff are so impressed by the quick recovery of mother and son that they could be discharged as early as this weekend.

“It went really well. I’m still a bit sore. We’re still on the mend. It’s working perfectly,” says Andrew from the isolation ward of the hospital’s Kidney Centre.  “My creatine was over 1,000 when I came in and it’s already around 260.

“I felt weak after the surgery, but I could feel that bit of life in me again straight away. It’s amazing how quick it works. Mom wasn’t too great after the surgery – it was her first ever. She was quite sore, a bit iffy, but she’s good now.

“We have rooms back-to-back. We’ve been going for walks, going for breakfast together. It’s nice to spend that time together.”

Andrew – or Drew as he’s known to family and friends –  was diagnosed with kidney disease when he was just 16.

Berger’s Disease occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin builds up in the kidneys and results in inflammation, which over time, can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.

He managed the condition well for over a decade without too much impact on his life.

The son of classically trained chefs who studied together at Johnson and Wales College in Rhode Island, he grew up working in his parents’ American-style diner, trading since 1991.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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New River Corrib rescue boat to be deployed following ‘significant donation’



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The provision of a specialist rescue craft on the Corrib – upstream from the Weir – could now happen over the coming weeks or months following a ‘significant voluntary donation’ in the past few weeks, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

Water safety issues on the Corrib were highlighted last month when up to 10 rowers had to be rescued after their two boats were sucked in by the currents towards the Weir.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has launched an investigation into the circumstances of the potentially catastrophic incident which occurred around midday on Saturday, January 14.

A specialist D Class lifeboat is now being sourced as part of a multi-agency approach to try and improve emergency rescue operations upstream from the Weir which would be accessible on a 24/7 basis.

While the cost would be in the region of €40,000 to €50,000, the overall figure would rise to around €80,000 to €90,000 when specialist personnel training costs were included.

Galway Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mike Swan, told the Galway City Tribune that he was aware of a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try and get the Corrib rescue craft in place as soon as possible.

“I suppose we’re all trying to work together to ensure that a full-time rescue craft is provided on the Corrib and I believe that real progress is being made in this regard. This would be very good news for everyone,” said Mr Swan.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Three years on and ‘Changing Places’ facility on Salthill Promenade still not open



Mayor of Galway, Cllr Clodagh Higgins at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money. Work on the project only began last February, despite initial predictions that the facility would be open in January last year.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The wait for accessible, specialised toilet facilities at Ladies Beach in Salthill goes on – three years after they were ‘prioritised’ by city councillors.

Galway City Council has confirmed to the Tribune this week that the ‘Changing Places’ facility at Ladies Beach is still not open.

Construction of the facility began almost a year ago, at the end of February 2022.

The local authority confirmed that some €135,600 has been spent on the unit, which is not yet open to the public.

“The initial stages of construction went well, with the facility now largely in place. There are a number of outstanding snags to be completed before the facility can open.

“Galway City Council is liaising with the contractor to complete out these snags, with a view to opening the facility as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

The local authority did not elaborate on what ‘snags’ were delaying the project.

But in January, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, suggested that staffing issues were to blame for the delay.

(Photo: Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins, at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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